The Atlanta Falcons jumped into the roster cuts fray early, releasing veteran safety William Moore and linebacker Justin Durant on Feb. 8. Since that time, they added fullback Collin Mooney and cornerback Travis Howard to the list, and they will reportedly release defensive tackle Paul Soliai when the new league year begins on March 9.
The Falcons have needs on both sides of the ball, and with a handful of players still on the roster and under contract who haven't exactly lived up to their contract status, it's reasonable to think the Falcons may have more cuts on the horizon.
Return specialist Devin Hester spent a significant part of the season on injured reserve with a designation to return as he recovered from turf toe. In five games with the Falcons last season, Hester had nine kick returns for an average of 26.1 yards per return. On punt return duty, Hester had eight returns for a total of 34 yards, and his 4.1 yards per return average was the worst of his career. He played just one offensive snap and had no receptions. Hester is set to make over $3.8 million next season, and cutting him would save the team $3 million in cap space.
Defensive tackle Tyson Jackson is pretty good against the run and pretty abysmal at rushing the passer. He posted a -7.1 grade from Pro Football Focus for his pass rush efforts. Jackson also played just 462 of 1,064 defensive snaps last season, and he's set to count $6.35 million against Atlanta's cap next season. That's too expensive for a player who hasn't been particularly effective and whose snap count is so low. Cutting him, and especially designating him as a post-June 1 cut, would save the Falcons a lot of money.
Right before the 2015 season began, the Falcons facilitated a trade for Andy Levitre, sending a sixth-round pick to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for the veteran left guard. At first, it seemed like a pretty good trade, but Levitre's play declined over the course of the season, and he is costly. If he is retained by the Falcons, Levitre will make $5.375 million next season. Cutting him now would save the team just $1.25 million and would add $4.125 million in dead money. The team could also choose to designate Levitre as a post-June 1 cut, lessening that dead money obligation to $1.375 million and saving $4 million against the cap.
Kicker Matt Bryant landed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury that damaged his accuracy in 2015, and at age 40, his time in the NFL is likely winding down. Bryant has been so reliable for the Falcons over the course of his career, and he's a fan favorite. Nobody wants to see the team part ways with him, but with a $2,870,833 cap hit in 2016, the Falcons may decide to do exactly that. The Falcons would add over $2.2 million in cap space and just $666,667 in dead money if they cut Bryant.
Which players do you think the Falcons should consider cutting?